Newswise — The college applications have been submitted, and now, high school seniors and their parents are waiting for acceptances - and dreading rejections. With a young person’s entire future seemingly hanging in the balance, this can be a tense time for families.

College-bound students who applied for early decisions received notifications around December 15. The regular admission deadline was around the first of the year; many students applying to highly ranked colleges receive word in March and April.

Parents can take a healthier approach to this nail-biting moment in life and guide their child to do the same, says Kate Sheehan, a licensed clinical social worker and managing director of the UCLA Center for Child Anxiety Resilience Education and Support. Sheehan has some survival tips for navigating the wait.

  • Don’t confuse your past with your child’s future. You may regret not getting to attend your dream school, or think you would have been happier or wealthier if you had. Don’t project those thoughts onto your child, Sheehan says. Discuss various scenarios that might occur in college admissions, adding some parental perspective.
  • Your student may be imagining an overly dire result of not getting into their top college choice: a lousy job, less income, embarrassment among their peers. However, parents can help prepare them by discussing the advantages of their other college choices and emphasizing that the negative impacts are not as bad as they imagine.
  • Remind your teen who they are as a person – a talented photographer, a mentor to a young relative, etc. -- and help them focus on their strengths, which is what they’ll be building on wherever they go to school.
  • Practice stress-relieving skills – regular runs, yoga or mindfulness techniques – for yourself. Encourage your child to do the same. A parent labeling their stress relief as such can help your child build their own toolbox for managing her own stress.

 “The more everyone can keep their eyes on the big picture, and keep the waiting period into the context of their larger life, “ Sheehan says, “the easier it will be to maintain a bigger-picture outlook when they hear back, especially if there’s a disappointment.”


For more information on this topic or to schedule an interview with Kate Sheehan, contact Leigh Hopper at 310-267-7149 or [email protected]